Selling Hot Tamales

By Eric Hammer

Ever heard the term "they’re selling like hot tamales?" Whether you have or you haven’t, it’s undeniable that hot tamales are a big business in the United States. The wraps, made from a kind of corn husk and filled with a variety of different fillings are cheap and easy to eat. They are also popular with Americans who enjoy spicy and or Mexican food meaning that they can be sold to lots of people.

Those who are most successful selling hot tamales do so with their own family recipes which they keep a closely guarded secret. However, it is also possible to sell ready made hot tamales which are frozen and then reheated by you, either in a truck you sell them out of or even door to door at offices.

In fact, one of the most popular ways to get started selling hot tamales is to make them at home and then bring them to offices during lunch hour, where you can sell them to people in the office. If you do this on a very small scale, i.e. as a side business where you sell them to coworkers, you can usually get away without any licensing (though you do open yourself to the risk of a lawsuit if someone gets sick eating one). However, in general, you’ll need to get the right licenses to do this.

How Much Can You Make?

Hot tamales tend to sell like, well, hot tamales. They are a popular food and relatively inexpensive to prepare. Most places that sell them charge about one or two dollars a piece for the tamales and they sell several hundred a day at the minimum. Keep in mind however that this is a gross sales figure, not a net income figure. You have to figure in the cost of making them, transporting them and paying for licenses, taxes and all the other things that go with running a business.

If you are very successful, you can expect to make a good living from it (some people who started small now run networks of stands where their hot tamales are sold and have become millionaires from it), however for most people this is either a middle class living or just barely a living.

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Other foods go naturally with the sale of hot tamales. Consider selling soft drinks, tacos, salsa, guacamole and all manner of other Mexican style foods as part of your business.

If hot tamales are not your thing but the idea of selling food on the street or at offices appeals to you, think about something you do enjoy making that you could sell. It’s just as easy for example to start a business selling sushi or roast beef sandwiches as it is to start a business selling hot tamales.

Another great idea when trying to differentiate yourself in selling hot tamales is to look into obtaining certification from various groups. For example, you may want to try selling organic hot tamales and obtain certification for selling organically. Or you can sell kosher or halal hot tamales, thus ensuring an audience with observant Jews or Muslims who will not have many other options if they want to eat hot tamales (note: neither Jews nor Muslims eat pork, so pork filled hot tamales will be out of the question if you go this route).

Qualifications / Requirements

It goes without saying that you’ll need to know how to make hot tamales. Or, at the very least you’ll need to know where to purchase them wholesale and then have the equipment to reheat them. You’ll also want to obtain a food handler’s license as well as insurance against liability in case someone gets sick from eating your food.

Keep in mind as well that you will need to arrange for city and state tax licenses for a business and you will have to collect sales tax (or figure the sales tax into your price).

First Steps

Start by scouting locations to sell the tamales. Think about where there are lots of offices. These may be a good place to start selling your hot tamales as many office workers will find them to be a great food to eat quickly before they rush back to the office. If you work in an office, start small by making some and offering them for sale at the office. See if your coworkers enjoy them. Then you can move on to selling to others.

Resources

eHow: How to Sell Hot Tamales – exactly what it sounds like, this article offers some good, practical advice on getting into the business.

New America Media: Selling Hot Tamales is a Thriving Business in Los Angeles – More encouragement than practical advice, this article tells you why hot tamales are selling like hot tamales.

The Texas Tamale Warehouse – If you don’t know how to make hot tamales or you don’t want to be bothered but do want to sell them, consider buying them from this wholesaler.


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Every Way to Make Money | Selling Hot Tamales